Cardinals face major offseason questions in Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright

It could be the end of an era in St. Louis

The Cardinals season ended on two straight losses to the upstart San Diego Padres, including a Game 2 start from Adam Wainwright, which the club deemed a must-win given the red hot nature of their opponent. It turns out they were right.

Wainwright and Molina have accomplished so much together, but their best years are behind both of them. Molina is due to come off the books this Winter, which will free up $20 million for the Cardinals to spend. At 38 years old, St. Louis will either ask Molina to take a substantial pay cut, or move on entirely.

Is there a scenario where both Molina and Wainwright run it back?

Wainwright is a free agent as well. Last season, he signed a one-year, $5 million deal. That contract was a bargain, and should he opt to sign for somewhere in that vicinity there’s no reason the Cardinals wouldn’t consider bringing him back. Wainwright went 5-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 2020.

Molina’s outlasted just about every “catcher of the future” the Cardinals have hyped up in their farm system. Carson Kelly was traded to the Diamondbacks in the Paul Goldschmidt deal, meaning St. Louis doesn’t have a young backstop in their ranks to take over for a legend. If Yadi wants to come back, and he’s willing to take far less money, St. Louis will consider it heavily.

Wainwright and Molina have long set the standard in St. Louis. They’re both leaders in the clubhouse, and role models for any front office around the league. Acquiring two players with their potential — and keeping them on the same roster for so many years — is a dream for any franchise. Knowing when to pull the plug is nearly impossible.

On the surface, it looks like 2020 isn’t that year.